The long run up to the United States midterm election is over and (most) of the votes have been counted. There will be new members of Congress sworn in next January, some that may serve on the committees that focus on agricultural policy. Before then, however, the current Congress has an opportunity to pass the Farm Bill that their committees wrote. If that does not happen, the full trade service and technical assistance that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has long provided to overseas wheat buyers and end-users is at risk.
The Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) assists helps U.S. farmers developing new foreign markets and work to promote products in existing markets. The FMD program helps organizations like USW establish the long-term relationships that are so important in today’s international trade environment.
However, the FMD program lost its baseline funding on September 30 when the 2014 Farm Bill expired. Without a new Farm Bill in place, the market development infrastructure built with FMD and farmer funds is under serious threat, at a time when export promotion is needed most. Without the funding from the FMD program, USW would eventually have to cut back on it activities, short-changing the wheat farmers we represent as well as their overseas customers who benefit from the many service-oriented activities USW conducts.
A coalition of export market development organizations like USW appreciates that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees recognized FMD’s importance and took steps to renew the program and protecting its baseline funding in both versions of the Farm Bill. Without protecting the baseline, export promotion organizations like USW will face serious uncertainty every time a Farm Bill is set to expire because of a law that ends the funding baseline for programs like FMD with budgets of less than $50 million per year. A new Farm Bill can protect the FMD program and the trade service it supports.
This week, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) called on Congress to pass the Farm Bill as soon as possible, in part because “the economy in rural America is struggling,” said Jimmie Musick, NAWG President and a wheat grower from Oklahoma.
Also this week, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota said that because negotiators are getting “relatively close” to an agreement on a final measure that Congress could pass during the lame-duck session, farmers and ranchers can expect a new Farm Bill before the end of 2018.
USW, NAWG, and the U.S. wheat farmers they represent are all hoping that Rep. Peterson is right.